On your journey to career clarity, conducting informational interviews is one of the last steps before venturing down your chosen career path. Each informational interview helps you gain real live insights into a career field that based on your research seems well aligned with your unique strengths, values, purpose and passion. It’s like ‘test-driving’ your chosen field before taking additional training, starting a business or applying for jobs.
Before I launched my career clarity coaching business in 2004, I conducted many informational interviews with coaches and counsellors. The informational interview process helped me discern that I really wanted to be a coach and not a counsellor. It helped me move forward with confidence. Thanks to my thorough research, thanks to each informational interview I initiated, I never look back second-guessing my choice. I am so grateful for all my informational interview partners who took time out of their busy schedule to share their experience with me.
Conducting informational interviews too soon on your career clarity journey can actually lead to more confusion. If you still feel pulled in many directions, you probably haven’t found enough clarity within to reap the clarity you desire from informational interviews. If that’s were you are at, request your free career clarity consultation to explore how I may assist you in refining your focus.
In this article I assume that you have reached a state of inner clarity about the career that’s right for you and that you are ready to put it to the test.
Quality Informational Interview Questions Reap Quality Answers
The overarching goal of every informational interview is to receive relevant information from your interview partner. The quality of your questions determines the quality of the answers you will receive. Open ended questions that begin with who, why, what, where, and when are most suited to elicit information from your interview partners.
Take time to prepare specific open ended questions ahead of time. This will help you accomplish your specific goals each time you conduct an informational interview. Avoid yes/no questions such as: “Do you like working for this organization?” A more powerful, open-ended question would be: “What do you like about working for this organization?”
Open-Ended Informational Interview Questions
1. Jobs and Roles
- What responsibilities do you have in this role?
- What does a typical work day look like for you?
- What do you enjoy most about this work and why?
- What do you find most challenging about this work and why?
- What are the most critical skills, abilities and personal qualities for success in this field?
- What is a typical career path to arrive in this position? What was your path to this role?
- If you had to begin fresh in your career, what would you do differently?
2. Organizations and Work Environment
- What inspires you about the organization you work for?
- Why did you decide to join this organization?
- How is the organization structured?
- How would you describe the work-place culture in your organization?
- What are the organization’s greatest challenges? How are these challenges being addressed?
- How could someone enter this field?
- What are the major current challenges in this industry?
- What do you like most about working in this industry?
- What do you like least about working in this industry?
- What first attracted you to this industry?
- What advice would you give someone interested in entering this field at this time?
Create your own informational interview questions, focusing on what you are truly curious about. Select five to ten questions per informational interview depending on the specific time frame you have arranged with your interview partner. Prioritize your questions based on the specific goals you have set for the informational interview and ask the ones you are most curious about first.
Unlike job interview situations in the past where you might have tried to portrait a certain persona to get the job, the informational interview is all about truly being who you are. Take a few moments to relax, get centred and grounded before each informational interview. This will help you be authentic and genuine during the conversation and listen well.
Be prepared to talk about your strengths, values, passion, and purpose briefly and succinctly. Keep the focus on listening and gathering information from your interview partner.
Grow Your Circle with Each Informational Interview
- Who else in your field would you recommend I talk with?
- What other companies would you recommend I learn about?
- What types of organizations hire people to perform similar functions?
- Who do you know in the role that interests me most?
Then conclude with a powerful yes/no question such as:
- May I contact you again in the future if further questions arise?
Send a note of thanks, preferably handwritten, to your informational interview partner. Thank them for their time, their generosity and sharing their insights with you.
Assess Your Learning After Each Informational Interview
After each informational interview, take time to assess how the information you gathered resonates with YOU, your strengths, your values and your purpose. If you are working with a career coach, you may also dedicate a coaching session to digest the insights you have gathered to reap the full value and help you discern.
Do you feel more excited about your chosen career theme as you learn about it? If so, that is a very positive sign that you are on your way to find the career that is right for YOU! If by contrast you feel heavy or drained as you learn about your chosen career theme, it is also a valuable signal to pay attention to. In this case, it is a sign to move on to explore another theme that excites you.
When in doubt, it is good to conduct a few more informational interviews which will either confirm or refute this as the right path for you. Either way you will gain more clarity as you ‘test-drive’ potential career paths by asking powerful informational interview questions.
Julia James is a certified life coach and award-winning author of the book, The Mini-Retreat Solution. With over ten years experience coaching people through positive career transformations, Julia is passionate about helping people connect with their true calling.